Mud Bricks for Kids
While stone building was reserved for monuments and other places the ancient Egyptians wanted to be sure would lasted forever, basic buildings like homes, tombs, palaces, or even just protective walls in Ancient Egypt were constructed of brick. Prior to brick making, soil was used but was not very sturdy.
Ancient Egypt- Israelites Mud Bricks
Back in Ancient Egypt they couldn’t just make a run to the brickyard to pick up a pallet or ten in their trucks. Brick making was very hard, labor intensive work. So they used Israelite slaves to first gather the materials, make the bricks, and then use them to build with. They needed to use resources they had on hand to create sturdy bricks for building walls.
The first thing the Israelites had to do was gather sand, clay, and silt from the Nile. The soil from the Nile River when dried became a black hard stone like substance, making for sturdy bricks. Since we are not able to take a trip to the Nile River to gather our supplies, we are going to improvise and use materials that we can easily get our hands on.
You are going to need: topsoil, straw, water, and clay if you can easily get some. Oh, and something to use as a mold. You can make mini bricks with an ice cube tray if you would actually like to construct a model of something using your bricks. Or if you want to see a full sized brick you can make molds with wood, as the Israelite slaves did, or use something like a small square or rectangle pans. We used a silicone soap mold we had from another project for ours.
If your straw is larger you will want to chop it into small bits. Straw was used as a binder to help make the bricks even sturdier. This is called Straw Chaff. I found these little straw bundles at the craft store but you can also find hay or straw at a feed store, or ask a friend with livestock for a a few handfuls. Sometimes, they even used animal droppings to construct their bricks (we are gonna skip that part with our brick making).
Next, the Israelites had to work the mud and straw together. They did this by trampling it with their feet to mix it up consistently. Place your soil, straw and water in a large tub and try to mix it together the same way they did. Add just enough water so that your soil will hold together. This will help your bricks dry faster. The average size of bricks in Ancient Egypt was 8.7 x 4.3 x 5.5, if larger bricks were needed for building they were about 15.0 x 7.1 x5.5. You can make your bricks any size you like.Remove the mud mixture from the tub and place it in your molds, press firmly into the mold to remove air bubbles. Then, let it sit in the full sun for 1 day or until it is mostly dry. At this point they would remove it from the mold and let it finish drying in the sun out of the mold. Do the same with yours. Israelites left theirs to dry in the sun for 25 days. If you make smaller bricks they will obviously dry much faster. Later on in history the bricks would be baked in a kiln to hasten drying time.Once your brick is completely dry it is ready to be used for construction! Think you could make 1000 to 2000 bricks a day? That is what the ancient Israelite slaves were required to do.
You’ll also love this huge Ancient Egypt lapbook and unit study from Home School in the Woods – one of my favorite hands-on history providers.
Here are a few more interesting facts about mud bricks and the ancient Israelites…
- Houses were built using mud bricks and then were whitewashed to help deflect the brutal sun’s rays and keep the inside of the home more comfortable. Windows were placed high rather than lower like in modern homes to keep sand out and covered with reed mats. The roofs were flat.
- While these bricks were sturdy, they were not able to stand the test of time and that is why most of the remaining ancient Egyptian buildings that we have been able to study were made from stone rather than these mud bricks which eventually wore away.
- Mud bricks were often stamped with the cartouches of the reigning pharaoh. While many were lost, we have been able to recover some bricks that still bear the stamp.
- Israelite slave children as young as 4 were used to help make mud bricks.
- While smaller bricks were more common they have discovered mud bricks that were as large as 1 meter in length.
You’ll love these other hands-on ideas for studying about Ancient Egypt:
- Ancient Egypt Homeschool Unit Study – Hands-on and FUN! Part I
- Ancient Egypt Unit Study Part 2 – Best Hands-on Homeschool Ideas
- Ancient Egyptian Mathematics: Build a LEGO Math Calculator
- Free Ancient Egypt Mehen Printable Board Game (Hands-on History)
- Fun Hands-On History: Ancient Egyptian Collar Craft
- Day 1. Ancient Egypt Civilization (Hands-on History): Narmer Crown